PTSD Can Hamper Drug Treatment for Stroke Survivors: Study

FRIDAY Jan. 18, 2013 -- Stroke survivors with post-traumatic stress disorder are less likely to stick with drug treatments that reduce their risk of suffering another stroke, a new study finds.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) triggered by medical events affects 18 percent of stroke survivors.

This study included more than 500 stroke survivors who were asked about PTSD symptoms, their adherence to treatment with medications such as anti-clotting, blood-pressure-lowering and cholesterol-lowering drugs, and their beliefs or concerns about medications.

The researchers found that 65 percent of stroke survivors with PTSD failed to adhere to drug treatments, compared with 33 percent of those without PTSD. This difference was partially explained by differences in attitudes toward medication. Thirty-eight percent of stroke survivors with PTSD viewed medications as disruptions to their lives and worried about the long-term effects of medications or potential dependence on them.

"Unfortunately, too many stroke survivors are not compliant with these regimens, even though we know that adherence to post-stroke treatment regimens is one of the most important components of reducing the risk of a future stroke," study co-author Dr. Ian Kronish, an assistant professor of medicine at the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, said in a university news release.

"For those with PTSD, this study shows that concerns about medications are a significant barrier to treatment adherence," Kronish said. "Stroke survivors should be assessed for concerns about medications and PTSD symptoms, so that interventions may be introduced as early as possible to get patients back on track to avoid future stroke events."

The study was published Jan. 18 in the British Journal of Health Psychology.

"We believe that these findings suggest that stroke survivors with PTSD do not see their medications as helpful, but rather as reminders of their stroke, and that they avoid taking them as a way to avoid thinking about their stroke," study first author Donald Edmondson, an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health, said in the news release.

"We need to conduct further research to determine whether treating a stroke survivor for PTSD would alleviate medication concerns that lead to avoidance, or if additional interventions should be designed to address both issues," he added.

Nearly 800,000 Americans a year suffer a new or recurrent stroke, according to the American Stroke Association.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about stroke.

Posted: January 2013


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